Through Defense, Thybulle Stepping Up

by Lauren Rosen

The 76ers (42-28) face off with the Phoenix Suns (32-39) inside the bubble on Tuesday, and plan to attack the matchup with a "next man up" mentality

Without Ben Simmons (left knee), Joel Embiid (left ankle), and Josh Richardson (rest), opportunity looms large for the Sixers' younger players.

In the absence of perimeter stoppers Simmons and Richardson, Matisse Thybulle is expected to step into yet another challenging assignment - Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Matisse,” Brett Brown said at Monday’s practice. “It’s just fantastic preparation to what’s right around the corner [in the playoffs].”

“It’s a huge challenge, I’m excited for it,” Thybulle said.

Thybulle played his heaviest minutes inside the bubble Sunday in the Sixers' narrow loss to the Trail Blazers, guarding renowned scorers Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

In 33 minutes, the rookie finished with a season and team-high nine rebounds, along with three steals, three assists, a block, and a game-high seven deflections.

Richardson, who scored a season-high 34 points in Sunday’s outing, gave Thybulle props postgame.

“He did a good job, I’ll take him in that matchup, 10 times out of 10. He’s a guy that I definitely want in my foxhole.”

From bubble standout T.J. Warren (Indiana), to Terrence Ross (Orlando), to Lillard and Booker, Thybulle took a moment Monday to reflect on the matchups he’s seeing inside the bubble.

“It’s pretty crazy. My last two years in college, we played zone, so I didn’t even have a man-to-man matchup for two college seasons. To now have my matchup each night be an All-Star, a future Hall-of-Famer, it’s really crazy to think about, and it’s pretty exciting honestly.”

Veteran Mike Scott (9 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast) might be the rookie’s biggest fan.

“Matisse is already an elite defender. I always tell him he can make first-team all-defense if he keeps it up. He has heart.”

Thybulle’s next chance to impress comes Thursday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Opponent Outlook:

The Suns (32-39) are the only undefeated team remaining inside the bubble, having won each of their first six games since the restart.

Devin Booker has been phenomenal, averaging 30.3 points per game, shooting 50.4% from the field. The Suns will meet the Sixers on the second half of a back-to-back, beating the Thunder 128-101 Monday. Booker scored 35 in the matinee.

Phoenix is just 1.0 game behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the coveted eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

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